Great article in Forbes on when Innovation is not the answer. I love their piece on Icons- if you are lucky enough to have a brand icon, don’t be tempted to relaunch it and mess it up. Whatever happened to the Man from del Monte a UK advertising icon destroyed by an agency keen to do something new for the sake of being new. How many icons are there in the ambient juice category – really? In this case the ad agency brand planners decided that the Man from DM was a little retro, a bit too ‘colonial’ and his ‘saying yes’ was an unfair judgement on the low paid fruit pickers. There is a difference between creating a little more love around your brand and losing one of the most memorable, recognisable, in fact one might even say unique icons in the category. Mistake. A classic example of When not to Innovate.
The three most important questions for anyone working in innovation, trying to be more innovative, or just looking for some inspiration are:
1. Why ?
2. Why not ?
3. How can I make that possible ?
Asking ‘Why ?’ is more important than asking ‘What?’. Asking ‘Why ?’ opens up a whole host of interesting opportunities to explore. Asking ‘What?’ closes down opportunities to explore new ideas because it asks for hard solutions too soon.
Asking ‘Why not?’ is really helpful, it forces you not to accept the status quo. My 5 year old does it all the time. She’s right. She wants to push boundaries, she wants to control her own world and keep the opportunities to explore as wide as possible. We can learn a lot from her. When you ask ‘Why not?’ you get a load of answers starting with ‘Because..’ Question them, interrogate the reasons, it gets you to new options pretty quickly.
Asking ‘How can I make that possible ?’ means you are not closing things down too soon, not accepting defeat and not accepting the world as it is now. You might think of an idea that seems, on the face of it, impossible, and if you always think about things like that, nothing ever changes. How about thinking ….under what circumstances can I make that happen ? what would it really take to get that going ?, push it around a while and see how the solution space starts to open up.
IDEO‘s CEO Tim Brown talks about ‘methods for having an open mind’. To open your mind, start using these three simple questions and see how you get on.
- Ideo’s 3 Steps To A More Open, Innovative Mind (fastcompany.com)
After years working on the biggest brands out there, I am still shocked at the number of times ‘innovation’ actually boils down to the blindingly obvious. Let me give you an example: A well known UK high street bank wanted to launch a new current account. They spent millions on some hardcore consultancy and they came up with the following platform to launch the new current account – the more products a person holds with the bank, the better their current account terms would be. Whoo hoo! Everyone’s a winner; the bank gets you to take out more products, you get a bit of interest and some perks on your current account. Easy? You’d think so. But not so fast. After a whole heap of consumer research the bank came to my company saying – people think this idea sucks…we don’t know why! Worse still, we’ve done all this expensive consultancy work and we need a plan. Fast. Help!
So, we asked, ‘What is blindingly obvious about people and their relationship with the bank ?’ Think about it. What is the first thing you think your bank should recognise about you? Is it how many products you have with them ? No, probably not.
It is usually, how long you have been banking with them. It is also likely to be something to do with them knowing what your spending patterns are like over time. So why not reward longevity and loyalty instead? If businesses start with what matters to their customers – in this case -‘ how long I have been with my bank’, and work on new products from those foundation insights, they end up with a better customer response. In this case the bank started with what worked best for them ( no surprise there) and customers hated it ( no surprise there either).
Obvious. Blindingly obvious.
Watch this space in the coming weeks and months for more blindingly obvious examples.
- JAMES CONEY: A banking revolution? The only thing that is revolting is their customer service and lack of simplicity (thisismoney.co.uk)
- The Good Bank: Where Do Banks Need Innovation Most? (Part 1) (blogs.sap.com)
- Want To Stand Out As A Retail Bank? Try Customer Centricity (blogs.sap.com)
- It’s looking more and more like paid-for current accounts could be the next mis-selling scandal (newstatesman.com)
I have lost count of the number of colleagues, clients and friends who say, ‘I am just not that creative, I don’t think I am a natural innovator. I can’t do innovation’. Well they are all WRONG! Everyone is capable of innovating and this blog is designed to show you how!
Take this simple test – answer ‘yes’ to any of the following ? Then you’re an innovator.
- Have you ever thrown a party?
- Have you ever told a lie ( even one of those little white ones)?
- Have you ever lost your way ?
- Have you ever started a conversation with someone you’ve just met?
- Have you ever changed your mind ?
- Have you ever read a book and recommended it to someone else ?
- Have you ever seen someone do something and thought… ok, I’d like to try that?
- Have you ever made someone laugh?
- Have you ever entertained a child ?
See where I am going ? We innovate all the time, we make stuff up, we look at the world around us and adapt, we talk, we read and we interact. All this uses our inner innovator. Your inner innovator exists, this blog is about finding it, using it and celebrating it! Moreover, you are not alone, check out Keith Sawyer’s book on collaborative innovation, a great point of view on how we interact to innovate.
Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be posting about projects, books, resources and ideas in the world to stimulate and encourage you to explore your inner innovator. With 13 years experience working for global brands, across multiple sectors and regions, from the shop floor to the boardroom – I’ve seen plenty to help you kick start.
Innovation is not magic or elusive, it is everywhere, simple, obvious and accessible. Nor is innovation serendipitous, it can be logical and even scientific. You are already massively innovative in your everyday as well as your working life. Join me and unlock the great stuff you’ve hidden away.